Mortal Kombat X: Head 2 Head
After my early look and analysis of the game on PS4 and XboxOne I have now had a chance to play it on PC across my collection of machines along with completing the story portion of the game and getting through a full analysis.
From my first hours with the game it was evident the XboxOne version was non-native and my first impressions where around the 900p range. After a full pixel count this comes in at 1344*1080 with another single upscale resolution on the horizontal plane, just like in Dying Light, Advanced warfare and I am sure many more games to come. This is a nicer option as it makes the upscale harder to spot for some (as evident by it not being noticed by hardly anyone) but it all comes down to around the same 1.4 million pixels give or take 10k so the image is a little softer for it and the edging of objects or thins lines like the tree’s or ropes in backgrounds look more jagged than the PS4 or PC version (so long as you have the machine for it) along with textures looking a little softer but this is a minor IQ deficit and is not a huge difference but one that can be noticed more in certain areas, but not with the huge qty of FMV’s (this pre-rendered in-engine sequences that tell the story along with the QTE sections are not real-time) in the game which all sport the same native resolution along with the terrible frame-pacing as shown in my 1st Contact video affecting all formats and Hardware specs without prejudice it ruins the flow of the actual gameplay which runs at the target 60fps on both consoles with no issues…but the PC version does not have the same level of performance at all. From the outset the framerate on PC in game is choppy at best and this only equal’s the consoles once you get to my High End machine of an i5 and GTX970. Like the console the real-time X-rays or fatalities all run at 30fps due to the increase in Post Effects and camera work when they kick in. This is not too bad and as the action is slowed down with dynamic camera’s with no player control it makes no difference to the performance or enjoyment, but having the option to run these at 60 or leave unlocked would have been preferred on console if at the least not PC. But the Unreal3 engine is one that has shown its versatility in all types of games and here the heavy use of cinematics may be more of an engine issue than a direct hardware one when the geometry & effects are ramped up.
Performance as seen in my previous video is a solid 60 aside the aforementioned “dynamic” actions scenes and occasional stutters from saving and loading within the game. But aside the high end machine both my Mid-level 8350/7870 and A10 GTX750Ti has varying levels of woe. This is one of only a few games that I know use the new Fibre method of CPU work delegation. This is something I cover in more detail on my Naughty Dog PS4 video that I will add the link for here when it is ready, but this is a new method that much better uses the resource of multi-core CPU’s by granulating workloads within a frame/Engine to make better use of the cores and the much needed parallelism as we move into this generation. Visual Studio and other compilers can have issues with this and this may be the cause of the moments like the forest level where the game loses its way, maybe from stale pointers? or other cache issues. As you see here with the 750Ti machine the frame-rate becomes unplayable as it is not only the drops to 30 but the delivery is very bad, but this does not happen all the time. When you are playing normally both machines run around the low 50’s to high 40’s and this is caused by heavy Alpha work when big moves are pulled off, but this affects the Nvidia card (not unsurprisingly) more so than the AMD one. Even dropping the resolution on the 750Ti down to 1680*1050 although improves it a lot with the consistency being better as the card no longer struggles with the fill-rate needed at a native display but such heavy GPU workloads it does not eradicate the issue totally, even dropping to a full 1600*900 which is slightly lower than the X1 can still have dips to low 50’s happen when heavy effects happen and the X-rays can even fail to hit the 30 rate at times dependent on the actual move and background, but I feel this is more of an issue with the engine/port that a direct GPU issue. Both PS4 and XboxOne do not have this issue at all and deliver a solid performance across the board on all levels and effects at the highest setting within the game, dropping the shadows or particles on PC has no major impact really as this is not where the overall issue's lie.
The High End PC is a match for the PS4 version and the X1 is close with just the resolution dip but delivers an equally solid performance, something that the other machines fail to achieve. That said the APU of the A10 and R7 can deliver a near solid 30fps when all Post Effects are turned off and running at 1600*900 which is a pretty good showing and means the game can still be played with sacrifices on a good spread of hardware.
But with all the performance issues aside what does it look like. Well no matter the resolution it is a disgustingly beautiful game. Implementing some form of PBR into the models and textures this translates into mostly shiny, sweaty skin or rain soaked scenery but it all looks great. Aside some times the mapped shadows on faces or objects from AO than can look wrong or false at times ruining the image when this happens, but this is rare. Which highlights another split with the PS4 and XboxOne having higher quality Shadows than the PC version even on highest. Both the XboxOne, PS4 have overall texture quality being the same as the highest setting on PC. Character models are all constructed from of a good amount of polygons that seamlessly link through from real-time scenes into gameplay.
Great use of particles allow fire earns to be smashed and bounce around the scene, ice blasts to sprinkle, blood to spray and skin to slice. These all bring a good display of the lighting in the game that allows them to illuminate the fighters when struck, or the background as you fight. This dynamic stage varies well with some stand out arenas being the huge arcing waves of the dock area that splash up dead bodies from within its lapping sea-line or the rippled river with crocodiles and hanging vines with which to enhance your attacks. It delivers well on the in combat action across the board with (on console at least) no impact to the frame-rate aside the small dips at the start or end of each match as it loads but this is not consistent on all loads.
But the detail and violence is only enhanced greater when the mid-battle X-ray moves are called in or the end game fatalities the franchise is renowned for. These are all real-time and as I say dip down to 30 seamlessly within action as they happen (very similar look to the Batman games end battle scene as the camera swoops in). But this allows you to admire the details in the models as they are crushed, snapped, gouged, sliced or just plain munched with a vivid display of gore. Bringing the game into a new level as the quality of the visuals aligned with some of the more “extreme” moves can border on the gross at times, but all enjoyable fun but a much stressed game that is only for the over 18’s. The sheer detail in the game is most highlighted throughout these sequences and most of the time is better than the In-engine movie sequences that play throughout the game and there are a lot of those.
It also sports soft body mesh’s when characters are maimed the torso flops and folds, hair and clothes also have a physics engine in place that enhance the organic feel of the highly detailed combatants with weapons like Takeda’s laser swords all wrapping realistically when used whilst throwing up particle sparks and like Raiden’s Electric shocks all have motion blur in play on them also. Netherrealm have used the UE3 well here and although the diversity of characters is good with each having a good deal of attention lavished on them, Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Lau-Kang have never looked so good it is a shame that the arena’s do not have the same amount on offer or more interactivity in them. Dead Or Alive or Injustice’s layered areas would work well here opening up more scope in allowing some of the physics and visual side to shine through, instead the areas in the game although very solid and well put together never quite achieve the same level of impressiveness that the models and camera work does..Yes even at 30fps.
Post effects are very good as expected in a game sporting only 2 characters on screen, motion blur on objects and limbs even particles and is of a very high sample quality on all and shows as I have said many times even at 60fps it is a welcome addition. Depth of field (DoF) is applied with the game when the battles commence or ends or within the gruesome moves as you see the background blurs out. The XboxOne and PS4 can at times have a slightly lower level of Bokeh here but in some scenes it is the same as PC so if this is a performance change it is not consistent and the 30 target also make this seem to be more of an omission, either or it is only incredibly minor and does not distract from a great suite of affects
Animation is again very solid and convincing if not a standout for this genre, again this may stem from the need to still have a Last gen version albeit not made by the same team having a completely new Animation system is not something that even a split dev team can achieve, again this may have also influenced the PBR side of the game itself with asset work being shared and aimed to scale across all platforms uniformly.
Sound is another strong portion of the game with the voice work being solid as each battle or story unfolds but it is in the battle that the design really shines, blows all feel heavy and impactful added to with the camera movement as they hit with a deep satisfying thud. The slice of skin, squelch of intestines as they fall on the floor or the unnerving wet pop of…the crown jewels complete with muscular view as they explode. It all sit’s well with the black comedy style violent humour, slap stick gone mad and male or female characters are all equally victorious, vicious and eviscerated.
Sadly the online portion of the game is not as solid or consistent as the rest, with my attempts to find a game and play being very long winded and far too many crashes out with “No network” error appearing in the lobby when the issue was not from my end. This is no better if I was playing on PC, X1 or PS4 with it seemingly being a server related issue or lack of them to service the requests with matchmaking in a timely fashion. The PS4 version is region locked to the same players as the purchased region game which mostly should not be an issue but if you have purchased tNewBlank.mp3he American version and you live in the UK or vice-versa this means that you are locked into playing against combatants from across the pond, not really a large issue just more informative. Both XboxOne or PC have an open region connection allowing you to freely kick the crap out of all no matter US or European, connections on all seemed pretty much the same once you are in a game it performed well with no concern for laggy controls but like all Online experiences your mileage may vary. It is hardly a solid infrastructure for an online tournament based battler but this is early days and it may improve as they add more server support, just expect a few minutes on average to find and join a game with variance.
Ultimately this is a solid entry into the Mortal Kombat saga that offers up a decent if not earth shattering level of Audi and Visual splendour and certainly shows signs of an engine more aimed at the current generation of hardware. The X1 resolution dip aside (and well done to the team in sacrificing the minor resolution drop in favour of the Frame-rate which is key in a game like this) is a blow for blow match for the High end PC or PS4 version, if you have a machine around my Mid Level and Low level machines then a dip in resolution will put you nearer but not quite at the Console level. If you have access to all platforms my recommendation is the PS4 just over the XboxOne due to the minor but welcome resolution improvements but aside that is an identical game and performer, last comes the PC (unless you have a high end or equal rig as here) as this version handled by another team than Netherrealm (High Voltage) seems to be lacking a little more polish that it deserves or needs and as a result suffers for it unless you have the spec. If the Fibre based portion of the game engine is causing some of this ( I know it has issues within some Visual debugging tools) or not is open for debate with the PS4 Devkit handling them as most likely does the X1 SDK, this may be something that can be patched up later to improve the performance.